Teaching and Identity: Blackness, Alterity, and Inclusivity in Academia

Teaching and Identity: Blackness, Alterity, and Inclusivity in Academia

Jessie D. Dixon-Montgomery (Illinois Wesleyan University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-9000-3.ch005
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Educators have a notable role in shaping and impacting students in their understanding of diverse people and cultures as we engage them to be critical thinkers and global citizens. As the population of the United States becomes increasingly diverse, the Academy's commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion becomes increasingly more important in order to successfully serve all students. This chapter examines the intersectionality of race, class, and gender and sexual orientation with our role as teacher. The author discusses the ways in which identity shapes and informs one's teaching, approaches notions of power and privilege, and brings underrepresented groups from margin to center while engaging, enlightening, and empowering students. Given the increasingly more diverse backgrounds of my students, the identity of the author plays an essential role in her philosophies and pedagogies, and how she is able positively impact students with a transformative experience that takes into consideration diverse viewpoints.
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The identity cannot be compartmentalized;

it cannot be split in halves or thirds,

nor have any clearly defined set of boundaries.

I do not have several identities,

I only have one, made of all the elements

that have shaped its unique proportions. (A New Concept of Identity, n.d., para. 3)


A Pleasure To Meet You: Identity And Difference

The conceptualization of who one is individually, collectively, and in relation to the dominant culture in society is more complex than our physical traits. In his study on teacher identity, Clarke (2009) elucidates the complexity of identity as “a complex matter of the social and the individual, of discourse and practice, of reification and participation, of similarity and difference, of agency and structure, of fixity and transgression, of singular and multiple, and of the synoptic and the dynamic” (p. 189). The politics of identity enable us to affirm who we are without assimilating to fulfill the objective of a homogenous, dominant culture. This is often a reality in many institutions of our society. However, as educators we have a notable role in shaping and affecting students in their understanding of diverse people and cultures as we engage them to be critical thinkers and global citizens. Having over 20 years as a faculty member at PWIs, I can attest to the value and importance of having representation of faculty and students from diverse URGs. This is essential for understanding the diverse people who make up our society, and for affirming their existence and contribution to the academy.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Language: System of communication in which individuals use words in a structured way to convey meaning.

Communicative Language Teaching: An interactive approach to teaching language in which the focus is on acquisition of communicative rather than linguistic competence.

Academia: Institutions of postsecondary education that engage in the pursuit of research, teaching, and service.

Double Consciousness: The theory W. E. B. DuBois proposed to explain the internal conflict of Black people in viewing their identity through their own lens and simultaneously through the lens of the dominant white society.

Teaching Philosophy: An educator’s self-reflective statement about their beliefs and objectives for teaching and learning.

Identity: The conceptualization and fact of being who or what one is.

Pedagogy: The methods and practice of teaching and learning.

Alterity: The state of being different; otherness.

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